September 13, 2005
Vitamin D, which most people lack in the winter and many lack in the summer, has an increasing number of roles to play. A deficiency in Vitamin D increases the risk of multiple sclerosis, several types of cancer, skin diseases, and even increased blood pressure.
Vitamin D plays an important role in the public consciousness, but even a bigger role in the minds of those who develop new medicine. Substances which are related to vitamin D are central to the treatment of many serious diseases. This is shown by a comprehensive and very well documented summary from the American pharmaceutical giant Eli-Lily.
In this summary the status and possibility of vitamin D treatment for (among others) prostate cancer, enlarged prostate, breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, leukaemia, multiple sclerosis, type I diabetes, skin cancer, hypertension, and of course osteoporosis is examined.
Here are some examples:
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a so called autoimmune disease, which means that it is a disease where the body’s immune system turns against parts of the body itself, in this case nerve tissue. In animal models of this disease it is possible to avoid outbreaks with the help of calcitriol. Calcitriol is the active version of the vitamin and is created as needed by the body so long as the vitamin D deposits are sufficient. MS is most common in temperate countries, where the sun in relatively low in the sky and vitamin D deficiency is common.
Rheumatoid arthritis is also an autoimmune disease, but with this disease the joints are attacked by the immune system. People with small vitamin D depots more often suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and the risk is higher in temperate countries than in subtropical climes. In animals it is possible to avoid worsening of symptoms if calcitriol is given early enough.
Psoriasis is already treated with salves which contain the vitamin D containing substance calcipotirol (Daivonex), which helps at least 70% of sufferers. Sunlight also helps. Like vitamin D, calcipotirol has the ability to help cells become mature and specialized without growing uncontrolled.
Death rates from prostate cancer are lowest in sunny countries, and the risk of getting this disease is highest in men who have small vitamin D deposits. In a study prostate cancer growth was inhibited in six out of seven patients with the help of calcitriol tablets (0.5-2.5 microgram per day). This is also explained by the vitamin’s effects on the cells. Because normal prostate cell growth is also slowed, researchers also see a possibility of using such treatment for enlarged prostate.
Breast cancer and colon cancer are more common in people who do no get much sun. Both the growth and the spread of breast cancer are reduced by calcitriol in animal studies. Regarding colon cancer, increased growth has been seen in animals that were artificially given vitamin D deficiency. This cancer inhibiting property is predicted to play an important role in future treatment.
Finally, hypertension should be considered. Lack of sunlight and vitamin D in the blood are believed to contribute to high blood pressure. High blood pressure is quickly caused (in mice) by avoiding vitamin D.
All of the above illnesses have the common factor that they can be provoked by lack of sunlight, the most important source of vitamin D. They are also counteracted by vitamin D and vitamin D like substances.
One could wish that it would be possible to treat and prevent these illnesses with the active form of vitamin D, calcitriol. But this is a risky method which can lead to increase calcium levels in the blood and kidney stones. Therefore we must be content with getting vitamin D the natural way, which is to say from sunlight or by eating fatty fish, and then let the organism create calcitriol as needed.
Unfortunately at our latitudes the fours summer months from May to August are the only months where there is enough sun that we create vitamin D in the skin. Those who do not come out in the sun or are covered in clothing, do not create near enough. This makes it necessary to take vitamin D in pill form.
The task is to get enough vitamin D. This is not possible during the dark months without vitamin supplements or eating a lot of fatty fish. Deficiency creates a larger problem than many are aware.
By: Vitality Council
Nagpal S et al. Noncalcemic actions of vitamin D receptor ligands. Endocrine Reviews 2005;26:662-87.